After outright refusing, for months, to reimburse travelers whose flights have been canceled due to the pandemic, Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu finally opened the door to this possibility on Wednesday.
” Assuming that […] government assistance is commensurate with the damage we have suffered as an organization, the answer is yes [il y aura des remboursements] ”Said Mr. Rovinescu at an event organized by the Canadian Club of Toronto.
According to him, Air Canada could not afford to reimburse its customers without jeopardizing its “survival”. The leader, however, admitted that the company had managed to raise nearly $ 6 billion in funding since the start of the pandemic.
To date, Air Canada has reimbursed approximately $ 1.2 billion in so-called “refundable” (higher priced) tickets, but has retained payments made by its customers for other categories of tickets.
WestJet has already committed to reimbursing customers whose flights have been canceled.
10 days ago, the Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, said he was ready to rescue the airlines, but on the condition that they reimburse their customers.
Calin Rovinescu once again denounced Ottawa for having imposed more severe restrictions on travel than what we have seen in other countries.
“One of the things that I found disappointing was that we didn’t, as a country, focus on the sectors that were most at risk like retirement homes and factories where people work very closely together. », He lamented.
No to a State shareholder
While he is impatient to receive public assistance, Mr. Rovinescu does not want the government to become a shareholder in Air Canada, which would allow taxpayers to benefit financially from the industry’s recovery.
“Governments that own stakes in airlines is an extremely bad idea,” he said, recalling that as a lawyer, he worked on the privatization of Air Canada at the end of the years. 1980.
Most carriers with governments among their shareholders are “colossal failures,” he argued, citing Alitalia, Thai Airways and South African Airways in particular.
The return of the MAX this winter
In addition, although the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has just been cleared to take to the air in the United States, it will not be until next year that Air Canada customers will be able to travel on board.
“I expect that we can resume flights with passengers early next year, in January or February,” said the leader. We are going to do this very carefully. “
Mr. Rovinescu will retire in February, just after the planned closing of the acquisition of Transat.